Learn all about the world's finest luxury automobile.
Nobody does luxury quite like Rolls-Royce. Sure, Bentley comes close, but Rolls-Royce remains the final word in ultimate opulence. This is evident in everything from its cars to its dealerships, which is why you can be sure that the brand's first EV will be a masterpiece. Until then, combustion-powered cars like the Rolls-Royce Phantom have cemented the brand's name in the annals of automotive history, but how did this niche-defining luxury limousine come to be? And what changes came along the way? Brew a cuppa tea, settle down in front of the fire, and kick back as we look back on a pantheon of British excellence.
RR's founders first met each other in 1904. In those early days of the automotive industry, luxury car manufacturers only produced the rolling chassis that underpinned cars while the bodies were designed by independent coachbuilders. Despite this, RR earned the title of 'the best car in the world' as a result of the "superior quality and designs of the rolling chassis." In 1925, the Phantom family was born with the Phantom I. This offered "massive low-range torque, cutting-edge technology and 'Magic Carpet Ride'" dampening. These attributes set the trend for all successors, the first of which arrived in 1929 as the Phantom II.
As you'd expect, this second model pushed the goalposts further. By 1930, the Phantom II Continental arrived on the scene with a shorter wheelbase for a bit more of a performance focus. Those who wished to be chauffeur-driven could buy the longer-wheelbase model, and this set the precedent for the Phantom and Phantom Extended of modern times. The Continental could reach speeds as high as 95 mph but still wasn't as fast as some of its rivals. Rolls-Royce took issue with this and, in 1934, it developed a new 7.3-liter V12 on a new chassis. This resulted in the Phantom III which, when fitted with lightweight coachwork, could exceed 100 mph.
The brand was seduced by speed and produced an experimental car in 1939 nicknamed 'The Scalded Cat.' The unique creation was often loaned out to influencers of the time, which included His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. He loved it so much that he convinced the automaker to produce him a "more formal version."
Obviously, RR obliged and so was born the first Phantom IV. It was delivered in July 1950 and is still deployed on occasion at The Royal Mews under its pre-delivery codename, Maharajah. The Phantom IV was supposed to be a one-off, but 17 more "sumptuously appointed commissions for other royalty and heads of state" were ultimately produced. Interestingly, one more was built as a pickup for use by the brand as transport and for on-road component testing.
1959 saw the arrival of Phantom V, fitted with the brand's latest V8 engine. In 1967, subtle technical changes were deemed necessary, but the extent of these was so great that this facelifted Phantom V would be redesignated Phantom VI "at the very last minute." By the following year, "the only true coachbuilder left in Britain was Rolls-Royce's own in-house company, Mulliner Park Ward."
Production slowly continued through the mid-1980s until only two or three cars per year were produced. In the end, the coachbuilding company admitted defeat and ceased operations in 1992. Times had changed and people had lost interest in creating bespoke builds.
Every version of the Phantom up to VI was essentially a rolling chassis, which made it possible for a car to be sold and the new owner to create something new with relative ease. Rolls-Royce reports that many underwent multiple makeovers and many traveled across the globe. Some were just repainted, others were rebuilt from the chassis upwards.
In 2015, the Phantom VII was shown in Serenity Phantom form at the Geneva Motor Show. Construction processes had changed, but the commitment to one-of-a-kind luxury cars never waned.
Six years later, the 2021 Phantom VIII was reimagined as the Phantom Oribe, a custom commission by Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, whose car was co-created by the House of Hermes. The car drew inspiration from the client's collection of ancient Japanese ceramics, known as Oribe ware. Amazingly, Rolls-Royce allowed its custom paint to be applied to the businessman's jet too.
Phantom VIII "was specifically designed to be the ultimate platform for Bespoke commissions." This means we can expect to see many more custom creations in the coming years, but for now, we're spending our day ogling the special Phantoms of yesteryear.